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Beauty, Truth and Understanding

Milena, Ivanova (2020) Beauty, Truth and Understanding. [Preprint]

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Many scientific theories have been praised for their aesthetic qualities. Newtonian mechanics, Einstein’s theory of relativity are given as examples of a beautiful theory. The beauty of scientific theories is often used in the evaluation of their likelihood of being true or in the estimation of their expected empirical success. That is, often scientists place epistemic import on the aesthetic values of theories, deciding whether to commit to a theory in light of its aesthetic appeal, especially in situations when sufficient empirical data is not available to guide such a decision. The question then arises whether we can trust aesthetic considerations to be playing an epistemic role in science and informing our attitudes towards scientific theories.
In this chapter I outline accounts that have defended the epistemic role for beauty and aesthetic values in science, claiming that there is a link between an aesthetically appealing theory and its likelihood to be true. After challenging the plausibility of these accounts, I turn to an alternative defence for the relevance and importance of aesthetic considerations in science. It is argued that science has many goals, truth and empirical success being the usual favourites, but it also aims at offering understanding of phenomena and such understanding can be achieved in the absence of truth. By focusing on the concept of understanding, I argue that aesthetic factors are intricately linked to our own cognitive make up and desire to understand the world around us, shaping our inferential patterns and guiding the construction and acceptance of scientific theories.

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Item Type: Preprint
Milena, Ivanova0000-0002-1367-136X
Subjects: General Issues > Philosophers of Science
General Issues > Realism/Anti-realism
General Issues > Values In Science
Depositing User: Dr Milena Ivanova
Date Deposited: 22 Jun 2021 17:09
Last Modified: 22 Jun 2021 17:09
Item ID: 19204
Subjects: General Issues > Philosophers of Science
General Issues > Realism/Anti-realism
General Issues > Values In Science
Date: 2020

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